Leaders, managers, and small business owners never have a dearth of things to do. There are projects to be tackled, customers to serve, and teams to lead. Here’s a funny thing about human nature, though: No matter how much work there is to do, it’s always easy for us to put things off until the last minute, especially big tasks that we’re not exactly thrilled to do in the first place.
Some might argue that they work better under pressure. In some cases there may be some truth to that, yet working proactively—and allowing yourself plenty of time and leeway to not just do tasks, but do them well—is critical to quality work.
This begs the question: In an age of distraction and procrastination, what can you do to buckle down and do work now—even when you’d rather just put it off?
Psychology offers some surprising suggestions here. Consider:
Get into a consistent work/break routine. Many productivity experts advocate for a 50 minutes of work/ 10 minutes of break rhythm. More recently, researchers have landed on the seemingly random figures of 53 minutes of work to 17 minutes of leisure. The precise numbers don’t matter so much as finding your own balance—a way to get stuff done, then reward yourself with some down time.
Be aware of your brain’s tricks. Believe it or not, your brain sometimes tries to trick you out of doing hard tasks by directing you toward things that merely feel productive. So instead of working on the big report you’ve been delaying, your brain may tell you that what you really need to do is organize the printer cartridges or clean the break room kitchen. Chances are, these tasks can wait. Be aware of your brain trying to trick you into false productivity—and push past it if you can.
Sleep well at night. This is so simple and so important. Arriving for work fully rested means you’re in a better state of mind to do what you need to do. Don’t fall into the trap of saving your work for late in the evening, staying up too late, then showing up for work the next day groggy and unfocused. Reverse that cycle.
Make a to-do list, and start with the annoying stuff. This may be the most challenging tip of all, but there’s something to be said for starting your day with the item you’re dreading most. Get it done so that it’s not hanging over your head, and then you can really get on a productivity roll.
Procrastination isn’t anything you want to settle for or abide by; take action against it today. Motivate yourself with some of the resources at ACES!